Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock

Tripoto

I was never interested in history when I was in school; however, as I am getting older, I have picked up the liking for the subject.

Probably, I will attribute my initial dislike to history to teacher the way she taught it. She used to make us read the chapters only to remember exactly whatever she asked us to write, so we read them by heart to get good marks in the exams. We used to bend upon the sheaf of papers, with disinterest, pan faced, held those hand written notes and if at any point we missed; she grimaced her face, and screamed that we all will get a big zero in the written test. So, I was scared of it and continued.

Well, things changed over time when I started my journeys to visit places. Started reading the background of the place, how the people in those days lived, behaved, and interacted. The most interesting part of the visits, are when I look at the monuments, the forts and the architecture with complete astonishment ...how on earth could they build them with such accuracy without computers, engineering tools available today...probably took days to create them.

The intricate carvings on the rock still resist the nature's destructive forces

Photo of Konark Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha, India by Gautam Lahiri

One such structure is the Konark temple in Odisha or Orissa state in India, very near to the sea beach.

We were making a 3 day trip hopping across Puri, Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa. Primary aim was to dive in the sea to get thoroughly soaked in the crashing sea waves and also to see few edifices that are present.

With this intent in mind, we turned our Swift towards Konark, and proceeded along Puri-Konark Marine drive to cover the 35 kms. Just like any temple town in India, Konark is configured similarly with loads of handicraft shops, stalls selling stone items catering to the visitors who wants to take a section of Konark as a memento.

We parked the car and walked almost half a kilometer and entered the temple complex.

South east corner gives a good view of the main temple where the rocky horse is seen pulling the chariot

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

Konark is different. No deity is present, so no worshiping is done.

Our objective was to see the brilliant Kalingan architecture, and the meticulously rock cut impressions of human figures. The architecture still standing tall against the elements of nature. Of course, on closer inspection, we did see the sandy air from the sea had obliterated and eroded the figures. Not sure, if the future generation can see what we saw.

Figures of dancing women chiseled out of rocks

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

To see this exquisite and vivid sculpture curved out of a type of metamorphic rock called, Khondalite, we start our walk to the Konark temple complex.

The weather was hot and even in the late afternoon, the sun's rage did not lesson and we were sweating. With water bottles, being our constant companion, we started our rocky journey. To get the exact history, we hired a local guide, who explained us few of the temple features.

Dancers in various forms, playing instruments in different mudras

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

What he told us amazed us beyond words. Not sure what he said is true or not. This temple dating back to near about 1250 AD, built by king Narasimhadeva I of Eastern Ganga Dynasty was created by very advanced people indeed. The guide indicated sculptures of women who are seen wearing long skirts what we see today. The lady was holding a vanity bag with cosmetics of olden days, made purely from natural substances,

You can see the lady on the right wearing high heeled shoes ages ago, which I thought was contemporary

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

We saw few figures of women holding a mirror to see herself, another one combing her hair while wearing high heeled shoes. Imagine in those days, the fashion seen today was very much prevalent.

The lady on the left is looking herself in the mirror while applying vermilion on her head, which meant the know-how to make mirrors was predominant in those days

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

The Konark temple is like a chariot and if you see it from its eastern entrance, you will come across two big lions straddling an elephant beneath which are known as 'Simha gaja'.

Simha gaja, at the entrance of the temple where the lion is crushing the elephant underneath

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

A flight of stairs lead up to a wide opening where dance festivals are held. The courtyard opens inwards into the temple entrance.

One of the seven horses which is believed to be pulling the Konark temple chariot

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

We took a full 360 degrees tour around the temple and saw 24 wheels or sun dials made of rock ingrained on the periphery of the main structure. There are 7 horses that are pulling this chariot temple.

One of the twenty four wheels that adorn the temple base, the interval between each spoke is three hours and each beaded rod is ninety minutes apart and by placing the index finger on the wheel hub, and looking at the falling shadow, the bead which gets the shadow tells the time of the day

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

Each wheel is an hour of a day and each horse is a day of the week.

The brilliant rock carvings continue on with great detail on every single square inch of this great structure

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

Now comes the most interesting facts of this structure..The guide pointed to all the joints and continued his oratory. We saw those cracks or the holding sections of rock over which motifs are made are held with a metal clip. All these joints along with these clips were kept in place by a very powerful magnet which was kept on the temple top. The magnet held the temple in shape for decades.

The guide told us that ships passing through the ocean faced challenges by this magnet as it pulled the compass magnet onboard the ships and gave the sailors incorrect reading.

The big chariot wheel has smaller circles having carving of a lady, like here - getting up from bed, so the position of this circle is around the early morning of a typical day and the time can be calculated sometime in the morning

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

The sun dial that we saw has 8 circular curved pieces and each has a sculpted activity of a day to day daily life depicted. The top most point is midnight and when we saw it anticlockwise, various figures are created which shows what time of the day it is..like a woman in a night time activity meant it is deep in the night, a lady with her outstretched hand on top, meant she just got up, so on and so forth..

A lady is being attended to by her maids to dress for some social function, which is in the late morning when the sun is up and the day activity is in full gear, again indicating the time of the day when these functions used to take place

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

Let me try to explain what I remembered and learned ...

A warrior getting ready for the battle. Definitely this is in a position on the time scale sometime during the day

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

There were beads curved on the wheel, placed at intervals. What the guide showed us is - he put his finger at the center wheel...and asked us to examine where the shadow of the index finger fell and that way the time can be calculated. This way the accuracy of time used to be measured by the position of the sun and where or on which bead the shadow of the finger fell. Just imagine the level of knowledge the ancient people used.

Even today, the sun dials created 760 years ago or more still show the time with Swiss accuracy.

It would be wiser if you go prepared by explaining your audience what this temple carvings are based on. An abundance of figures displaying eroticism is seen on every nook and cranny of the temple 's outer surface.

A celebration scene when the emperor returns after winning a war and even a palanquin is seen carrying a lady

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

When it was 4.30 pm, and sun was pretty much aligned in the west to dip down, we saw the sculpted form of the sun god, the secondary statute getting full illumination from the sun rays and glowing. The temple is built on a east-west axis and both the entrance and the exit points glow with warm and soft sun rays, once in the morning and once again in the late afternoon...after all this temple is dedicated to the sun god ' Surya' and positioned such that sun washes, Konark with the rays. every day.

Late afternoon sun dazzling the face of the Surya god made of chlorite rock

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

There exist another old concept, which the guide told us. The temple is divided virtually across three time phases..When the sun rays fall in the morning, the first rays falls on the primary statue of the sun god and that area which gets illumination means the young age of a person, young and agile, when the sun climbs far above, the area of the temple it lights up is the youth of a person, the middle life and when in the afternoon, the sun goes to the west and the rays dim down, that indicate the old age of a person. So, the early morning and sun set of a day is equivalent to the life, birth followed by youth leading to old age.

We also learned that after the main deity was removed, the temple was filled with stones.

I saw this inscribed as I climbed the main temple courtyard which says that in 1903 on the orders of Sir James Austin Bourdillon, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, the temple was filled with stones

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

I will recommend everyone to visit this monument to see the architecture, and of course between late November and mid February to avoid the sultry heat of that place.

The precision with which the rock carvings are done by hand parallel the level of quality probably you may see if done by laser technology.

We bid goodbye to Konark as the setting sun paints the sky with vibrant colors over the descending darkness

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

After we had our eyes filled with the images of this paramount level of human creation, we get behind the wheel and gun the engine to return to Puri.

Konark temple silhouettes against the evening sky as the sun flashes its rays to the Surya god adorning the temple on its western fringe and vanishes into the horizon

Photo of Konark temple, an ancient design of passion on rock by Gautam Lahiri

Hope you enjoyed the ageless creation of ancient people where we see the fusion of both technology and creativity.

Trip first published on The Voyager

1 Comment(s)
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Gautam, Very beautifully explained.. Hat's off to the guide.. Great narration of the temple.
Thu 09 29 16, 23:44 · Reply (1) · Report
Thank you, Harish. Yes, you must visit the temple and I am sure you will feel the same.
Fri 09 30 16, 20:04 · Report